Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.
Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.
Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.
The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).
Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.
Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.
In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...
But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.
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Page Hamilton (Part I): 'When I Was Starting Helmet, I Found Out That Maybe ...Ultimate-Guitar.Com, September 29th
Over the course of the group's 25-year history, guitar players, drummers and bass players have come and gone; labels have been switched; and dark cycles have been weathered including divorce and creative immobility. But two-and-a-half decades after...Read more
Despite hiccups, rockers break in new Benson bar and venueOmaha World-Herald, September 28th
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A grand goodbye to Sox's KonerkoChicago Tribune, September 27th
The Sox offered a 1963 Fender Stratocaster guitar and an invitation to use it to play the national anthem. The most memorable gesture came from Chris Claeys, a Sox fan from the North Side who caught Konerko's grand slam during Game 2 of the 2005 World ...Read more
Rig Rundown: Cage the ElephantPremier Guitar, September 24th
Premier Guitar's Chris Kies catches up with Cage the Elephant guitarist Brad Shultz who talks about his love for Fender Mustangs and guitar tech Jordan Powell runs us through all the gear behind the band's 2014 tour in support of The Black Keys...Read more
Guitar show continues to see growthChillicothe Gazette, September 24th
According to event organizers, the show has experienced steady growth each year since its initial offering and now attracts vendors from across Ohio and several surrounding states looking to buy and sell new, used and vintage guitars. Goodman said the...Read more
Auction action: A 1960 guitar with a DC- area history fetches a pretty pennyWashington Post, September 21st
Lots of people figured the 54-year-old Gibson Les Paul electric guitar would fetch more than its $20,000 to $30,000 pre-auction estimate, but no one knew how much more. The answer: a lot. Two Saturdays ago, Gil Southworth Jr. paid $140,000 for the...Read more
Rare vintage electric guitars stolen from city store (PHOTOS)Nanaimo Daily News, September 11th
The 1958 Fender was consigned to the store by a customer and had a sticker price of $21,000 while the 1959 Fender belonged to store owner Richard Leighton. "They're the Holy Grail of vintage guitars," he said. "Two of the most desirable electrics out...Read more
One careful owner: The story of a desirable vintage guitar about to be auctionedWashington Post, September 8th
The early Les Pauls are associated with such figures as Jimmy Page, Mike Bloomfield and — before he switched to Fender Stratocasters — Eric Clapton. In an odd way, they — the guitars and the guitarists — started the collectible guitar craze, Alan said...Read more